Saturday, December 12, 2015

Happy 100th Birthday, Frank Sinatra!

I've written of my admiration for Frank Sinatra many times on The Cartoon Cave. In fact, my very first post when I launched this blog back in June 2007 made reference to his influence on my tastes in entertainment. For me, no other American entertainer better represents the 20th Century. He will always be the ultimate interpreter of The Great American Songbook - that vast catalogue of song standards composed by the likes of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and many others. And then there was the songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, who wrote many of Frank's biggest hits, such as Come Fly With Me, Call Me Irresponsible, and the heartbreakingly beautiful All The Way, one of my favourites. It's incredible to believe that Dec. 12 2015 is the centenary of his birth!

My favourite era of entertainment runs from approximately the early 50s through to the end of the 70s, and so it stands to reason that that's also my favourite period of Frank Sinatra's career. Although I can appreciate his early years as the skinny, big-eared, romantic crooner with the Tommy Dorsey band, that era is not nearly as appealing to me as his swinging bachelor image when he reinvented himself in the 1950s, thanks in no small part to his longtime collaboration with conductor/arrangers, Billy May and Nelson Riddle. With their jazzy musical arrangements and Sinatra's tailored suit, tilted fedora (or Trilby, as pictured), Frank had adopted a devil-may-care persona that epitomized the life of the 1950's young urban male. In the early 90s, that image was revived with the newfound interest among Baby Boomers in what was now called "Lounge Music". Though I was a Sinatra fan long before then, I must admit it felt good to see others starting to rediscover the greatness of that mid-20th Century entertainment.

Frank Sinatra's music career is what fascinates me the most, as I never tire of listening to his voice and styling of a song, making it his own. But I also enjoy Sinatra greatly as an actor, albeit with some reservation on some of his film choices. Whereas in the recording studio Frank was a perfectionist in his craft, the same could not always be said for his film roles. In his first dramatic acting role (that also boosted his flagging career) as the tragic Maggio in From Here To Eternity (1953), Frank showed he had the acting chops that few would have believed he had previously. There was no longer any doubt of that when he followed up in 1955 with his powerful performance as a drug addicted drummer in The Man With The Golden Arm. My favourites, however, would include the wartime escape drama, Von Ryan's Express, the cold war thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, and I must confess, two of his notoriously lightweight Rat Pack escapades, Ocean's 11 and Robin And The 7 Hoods!

It is in that latter film that Frank has his only onscreen musical collaboration with his Rat Pack pallie, Dean Martin. And if that weren't enough fun, they're joined by Bing Crosby, the legendary crooner who set the standard for all who came after, including Frank and Dean. Here's the three of these great entertainers singing "Style" from the aforementioned Robin And The 7 Hoods, a Chicago gangster spin on the Robin Hood legend. Enjoy!


Paul S said...

"The Voice."
The mould was broken on the day Francis Albert was born!

Pete Emslie said...

There'll never be another one like Frank, that's for sure, Paul! I always wonder in the music industry of today, whether a singer of Sinatra's calibre would even get his foot in the door. It seems like today's industry celebrates mediocrity more than anything, and nobody over the age of 25 would even stand a chance.